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For a very long time, I've been the recycling guy in our office. I set up special bins and boxes where our employees can drop off hard-to-recycle things either from home or work. Here are some tips and tricks I use to recycle pretty much everything in our office.
It's not so much that I've been a writer on green technology at TechSoup over the years. It's that I sincerely admire recycling and just want to do it every which way I can. I was around for the very first Earth Day in 1970 and have watched with satisfaction the spread of the environmental movement far and wide.
How far and wide? Just this week I had the pleasure of meeting a young woman named Anahma Shannon who organizes recycling efforts among 15 native villages in arctic northern Alaska for the tribal nonprofit, Kawerak, in Nome. She told me that they just collected 30,000 pounds of scrap metal, including old bulk fuel tanks, and shipped it all (without roads) down to Seattle. That's getting pretty far out there.
In our own office in San Francisco, we now collect and recycle all glass, metals, plastics (yes, every kind of plastic), paper, and anything compostable (mostly food scraps). The city requires us to do all that and provides special dumpsters for it. We also collect hard-to-recycle things like e-waste (anything with a plug or battery), batteries of all kinds, and fluorescent light bulbs. I find places to recycle those things myself.
No matter how hard I try to educate, urge, convince, or beg everyone to put their stuff in the right bins — they don't. A certain number of folks don't do it, have never done it, and probably never will do it. They don't care about recycling. Fine. I'm OK with that.
So here's the actual tip. I take a break from my computer every afternoon and troll the trash and recycling bins and put stuff in the right places. Lots of people notice and it's something of a joke around our office. I'm a self-appointed recycling janitor. Actually, there are a handful of us true believers who do it. I suspect there are some of us in nearly every office.
I always try to get to know our janitors. Even if I manage get every scrap of everything in the right recycling bins, if the janitor doesn't get the recyclables in to the right dumpsters outside, it's all just landfill.
My experience is that most janitors are flattered that anyone wants to notice and know them. It's a pretty lonely job. Some don't though. In those cases, I try to do little things for them. For instance, some of them love it if I set aside the aluminum cans so they can make a little money on the side.
Go to the Earth911.com search to find out where to recycle nearly everything close by in your locale. People have done just under two million searches on Earth 911 this year so far. When I search for hard-to-recycle things like compact fluorescents (CFLs), I find out that lots of national retail stores like Target, Home Depot, and Staples take them. I also like Earth911's Eco Tech articles.
Check out the Dell Reconnect Program. It offers free and reputable electronics recycling in most U.S. states. You can take discarded electronics devices to most Goodwills, which are part of that program, and they will accept them at no charge.
Check out our Preventing Data Theft piece if you want to make sure you remove sensitive or confidential data before recycling old devices.
If you don't want to do data wiping yourself, expect to pay something if you take your old devices to an electronics recycling company. Reputable ones are e-Stewards or SERI-certified. You can also arrange to reuse your working devices by posting them on Freecycle, ReUseIt Network, or Craiglist.
The last thing is to just keep on keepin' on. Convenient curbside recycling is not available everywhere, so if it's not in your locale, please keep bringing it up as an issue in your county, city, or town council.
If you're the true believer in your office, you undoubtedly know that environmental news is mostly bad news. We're in the midst of the sixth great extinction and consuming increasingly vast resources at an accelerating pace. My recycling mitzvah is to have the pleasure of doing a little something every day — and to trust in the wisdom of nature.
What a great article! I have four old cell phones I need to recycle - I'll look at your resources and see where I can send them!
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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